NATO divided over direct role in Libya

NATO headquarters in Brussels

From Angela Charlton, the AP:  NATO is divided over whether it should take a leading role or just provide support to air forces already engaged in the mission.

In Brussels, NATO’s top decision-making body appeared poised to decide on Sunday "if and how the alliance will join" the effort, said Martin Povejsil, the Czech Republic’s envoy to NATO.

From the AP:  Diplomats said NATO’s military planners are due to present final action plans to the North Atlantic Council on Sunday. The body should then decide whether the alliance will join the coalition operation or just provide logistical, intelligence and other support to the nations taking part in the intervention.

From Slobodan Lekic, the AP:  An allied effort to implement a no-fly zone over Libya will almost certainly establish quick superiority over Moammar Khadafy’s outdated air force. But diplomats and analysts — relying on lessons learned from NATO’s intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s — caution that any attempts to launch air strikes against ground forces would be far more dangerous and could result in serious losses.

NATO’s leaders met yesterday to work out the details of a flight ban over Libya, after the UN Security Council gave the international community a surprisingly broad mandate to protect civilians under attack by government forces. …

Germany and some other member nations have expressed reservations about the operation, warning that it could become a complex and long-term commitment. …

What worries NATO planners, however, are Libya’s plentiful antiaircraft guns and light, short-range shoulder-launched missiles — systems which proved very effective against NATO aircraft during the Kosovo war, said a diplomat who asked not to be identified.

These include about 500 cannons of various calibers, which could prevent allied aircraft from descending lower than 15,000 feet, said the diplomat who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. In Kosovo, a majority of bombing missions had to be carried out from higher altitudes beyond the reach of the Serbian guns. …

In contrast, NATO planners say the international community has 200 to 300 modern jets that could be quickly deployed to Libya from bases stretching from Gibraltar to Greece, and from US and French carriers in the Mediterranean Sea.  (photo:

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